Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Well, all of you undoubtedly learned about the Shot Heard ‘Round the World that started the Battle of Concord and Revolutionary War. There was the Assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand which was the shot that started World War 1. Now, we have the Tweet made fun of around Twitter that’s suggestion they’ll be another Civil War due to monumental “presidential harassment (i.e. impeachment) doesn’t stop right now. Yeah, I bet you can guess which moron threatened that.
“If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason’s & Dixon’s, but between patriotism and intelligence on one side, & superstition, ambition, & ignorance on the other.” Pres US Grant 1876 (h/t to Malcome Nance)
And a few other of the usual morons might be taking it seriously. No, seriously.
It’s Monday Morning! And, The Root has the story via Monica Judge: “Donald Trump Warns There Will Be a Civil War If He Is Impeached.”
Donald Trump is shook.
You can tell the “president” is shook because every time he is, he starts flailing on Twitter, tweeting out whatever nonsense he can think of to put up a brave front—but his words usually belie that enormous front and reveal that deep down inside, he is afraid of whatever may be coming next for him.
In this particular instance, what comes next may, in fact, be impeachment hearings that could eventually lead to his ouster from office.
Sure, impeachment should have happened a long time ago, because nothing about this man says he should be sitting in the highest office in the land, but that is neither here nor there, at this point. We currently have members of the House actively calling for him to be unseated, and as the days pass it looks like the likelihood of that happening grows, so he is once again afraid and once again tweeting nonsense to try and “scare” the American people into keeping him in place.
And so, as it goes, on Sunday, Trump tweeted a quote from an evangelical Southern Baptist preacher who thinks Trump is the best thing to happen to the United States white bread—Robert Jeffress.
“If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,” Trump wrote, noting that it was a quote from a Jeffress. Jeffress made the statement during an appearance on Fox & Friends Weekend on Sunday.
Meanwhile, there’s some news from the Republicans that already left the building. First up, Jeff Flake writing in WAPO: “Fellow Republicans, there’s still time to save your souls.” What? Those things were sold a long time ago to the Orange Demon..
We have learned from a whistleblower that the president has abused the power of his office to pressure a foreign government to go after a political opponent. A rough transcript of the telephone call has removed all ambiguity about the president’s intent. In light of these revelations, the House of Representatives has launched an impeachment inquiry and will likely be forwarding to the Senate at least one article of impeachment.
Compelling arguments will be made on both sides of the impeachment question. With what we now know, the president’s actions warrant impeachment. The Constitution of course does not require it, and although Article II, Section 4 is clear about remedies for abuse of office, I have grave reservations about impeachment. I fear that, given the profound division in the country, an impeachment proceeding at such a toxic moment might actually benefit a president who thrives on chaos. Disunion is the oxygen of this presidency. He is the maestro of a brand of discord that benefits only him and ravages everything else. So although impeachment now seems inevitable, I fear it all the same. I understand others who might have similar reservations. The decision to impeach or not is a difficult one indeed.
“Now for the easy decision. If the House decides against filing articles of impeachment, or the Senate fails to convict, Senate Republicans will have to decide whether, given what we now know about the president’s actions and behavior, to support his reelection. Obviously, the answer is no.
There are also rumors of a Boltin’ Bolton from The Raw Story: “John Bolton will encourage the GOP to turn on Trump now that he’s reeling from impeachment: MSNBC panel.”
A panel discussion on the increasing fallout over Donald Trump’s Ukraine phone-call scandal led an MSNBC panel to conclude that former Trump White House insider John Bolton would likely work behind the scenes to get Republicans to turn on the president now that he is damaged goods.
Speaking with “AM Joy” host Joy Reid, journalist Gabriel Sherman noted Bolton has longtime ties to the GOP leadership who may be more sympathetic to his point of view than they are to Donald Trump’s.
“He’s a person with deep ties to the senior leadership across the Republican Party and he’s notoriously a foreign policy hawk,” Sherman explained. “The idea that Donald Trump was trading on Ukraine security to help his cause would be anathema to a person like John Bolton.”
“He has no love for this president and behind the scenes, I am certain that he is having conversations to push the Republican Party to break with Donald Trump,” he added.
Sounds like there’s a rebellion brewing in the party again but only among those who are not facing the electorate. The SIXTH Republican congress critter from Texas has followed the stampeded out the door.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) announced his retirement Monday morning, saying that “the time has come for a change.”
“With over a year to go, I will continue to represent the people of the 13th District to the best of my ability,” he said in a statement. “Our nation faces many difficult challenges, and none of us can relax our efforts to meet and overcome them, whether at home or around the world.”
Thornberry is the sixth Republican congressman representing Texas to retire before 2020. However, whereas some, like Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), are abandoning increasingly blue districts, Thornberry is leaving a seat open in a ruby-red, safe Republican hold. The 13th district went for President Donald Trump in 2016 by a whopping 80 percent, per the Cook Political Report.
Timothy L O’Brien–writing for Bloomberg– shows all the problems now in the Donald’s Happy Meal; “Trump Hints at Civil War But He Launched a War on Facts. It’s not just the president’s phone calls to Ukraine that are a problem. Now there’s more.”
But it’s the opaque and overtly illicit material that we now know is hidden on that system, the use of which only became known thanks to a complaint filed by a Central Intelligence Agency whistle-blower, that is the stuff of presidential impeachment proceedings. The foundational disclosure, from the whistle-blower, was that Trump called Ukraine’s president in July and offered to connect him to his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr so they could jointly dig up dirt in Ukraine on a political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. That conversation, the whistle-blower said, got stashed away on the restricted NSC network – which the White House later confirmed.
On Friday night, the Washington Post disclosed that when Trump met with the Russians in the Oval Office in 2017, he went beyond slagging Comey and disclosing classified intelligence. He also told them “he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries.” That statement “alarmed White House officials” who decided a memo summarizing the meeting should be “limited to a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly.” It wasn’t clear if that memo was secreted on the NSC’s restricted network, but Congressional investigators can go ahead and find out.
CNN reported on Friday night that transcripts of sensitive calls between Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia were also limited to a select group in the Trump administration. CNN said it wasn’t clear if those transcripts were placed on the restricted network; the New York Times reported that they were. The Kremlin, unsurprisingly, said over the weekend that it would rather not see those transcripts made public. Congressional investigators should try to get a look at those conversations, too.
Apart from Trump’s staggering abuse of presidential power, one of the more troubling and pivotal disclosures from the whistle-blower’s complaint is that the White House systematically used the NSC network to hide his misdeeds. Doing so immediately turned that system into a Pandora’s Box of current and future woes for Trump and his White House. It also made those who managed the system, or who passed judgment on or had knowledge of the material that went into it – including witnesses and possible co-conspirators – into more than fair game for the Democrats running impeachment proceedings.
Meanwhile … what coulda shoulda been …
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I hope you’ll forgive a little childhood nostalgia from me this morning. Yesterday I came down with a cold and sought a little comfort by recalling the Beatrix Potter stories my parents read to me as a child. I googled Potter and came across this wonderful story about her life at The Guardian: The strange life of Beatrix Potter — how rabbits (and mushrooms) set her free, by Matthew Dennison. Dennison wrote a brief biography of Potter, Over the Hills and Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter. Here’s the Amazon blurb of the book:
Inspired by the twenty-three “tales,” Matthew Dennison takes a selection of quotations from Potter’s stories and uses them to explore her multi-faceted life and character: repressed Victorian daughter; thwarted lover; artistic genius; formidable countrywoman. They chart her transformation from a young girl with a love of animals and fairy tales into a bestselling author and canny businesswoman, so deeply unusual for the Victorian era in which she grew up. Embellished with photographs of Potter’s life and her own illustrations, this biography will delight anyone who has been touched by Beatrix Potter’s work.
At The Guardian, Dennison writes that at 25, Potter was:
Unmarried, cripplingly shy, plagued by poor health, she passed empty days in the nursery of her childhood home in South Kensington, at the beck and call of her irritable parents. She would remain there until her unexpected marriage at the age of 45.
In place of friends, she had a “noisy cheerful” pet rabbit called Benjamin H Bouncer. On good days, she noted, he was “amiably sentimental to the point of silliness”; on bad days, he ate the insides of her paintbox. Beatrix even dreamt about him: “Bunny came to my bedside in a white cotton nightcap and tickled me with his whiskers.” Inspired by Pepys, she wrote her diary in a complicated code of her own invention, sometimes framing her entries as letters to an imaginary friend called Esther. In these diaries, she vented frustration at her comfortable, pointless existence. As young as 10, she recorded an intention to “do something”.
It took quite awhile, but Potter eventually broke away from her restrictive parents by studying nature and painting. Of course she was best known for her illustrations of rabbits, but she also wrote illustrated stories about cats. I’ve used some of those illustrations in this post.
Now to the latest news.
We’re moving rapidly toward impeachment and maybe we’ll actually be able to rid ourselves of the monster in the White House. The revelations about Trump administration corruption are coming out at warp speed. You’ve probably been following every twist and turn, just as I have.
The latest: Last night we learned that Trump’s meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office was even worse than previously reported. The Washington Post: Trump told Russian officials in 2017 he wasn’t concerned about Moscow’s interference in U.S. election.
President Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter.
The comments, which have not been previously reported, were part of a now-infamous meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in which Trump revealed highly classified information that exposed a source of intelligence on the Islamic State. He also said during the meeting that firing FBI Director James B. Comey the previous day had relieved “great pressure” on him.
A memorandum summarizing the meeting was limited to a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly, according to the former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
A bit more:
White House officials were particularly distressed by Trump’s election remarks because it appeared the president was forgiving Russia for an attack that had been designed to help elect him, the three former officials said. Trump also seemed to invite Russia to interfere in other countries’ elections, they said.
The previous day, Trump had fired Comey amid the FBI’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign had coordinated with Russia. White House aides worried about the political ramifications if Trump’s comments to the Russian officials became public.
Trump had publicly ridiculed the Russia investigation as politically motivated and said he doubted Moscow had intervened in the election. By the time he met with Lavrov and Kislyak, Trump had been briefed by the most senior U.S. intelligence officials about the Russian operation, which was directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and included the theft and publication of Democratic emails and the seeding of propaganda in social media, according to the findings of the U.S. intelligence community.
Apparently, no one told Robert Mueller about these remarks–unless they were redacted by Cover-Up General Bill Barr.
Another scoop from The New York Times: White House Classified Computer System Is Used to Hold Transcripts of Sensitive Calls.
The White House concealed some reconstructed transcripts of delicate calls between President Trump and foreign officials, including President Vladimir V. Putin and the Saudi royal family, in a highly classified computer system after embarrassing leaks of his conversations, according to current and former officials.
The handling of Mr. Trump’s calls with world leaders has come under scrutiny after questions over whether a transcript of a July 25 call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was improperly placed into this computer system.
The latest revelations show the focus that White House officials put o safeguarding not only classified information but also delicate calls with Mr. Trump, the details of which the administration did not want leaked.
In the case of the calls with the Saudi royal family, the restrictions were set beforehand, and the number of people allowed to listen was sharply restricted. The Saudi calls placed in the restricted system were with King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Prince Khalid bin Salman, who at the time was the Saudi ambassador to the United States….
The practice began after details of Mr. Trump’s Oval Office discussion with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, leaked to the news media, leading to questions of whether the president had released classified information, according to multiple current and former officials. The White House was particularly upset when the news media reported that Mr. Trump had called James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, a “nut job” during that same meeting, according to current and former officials.
The White House had begun restricting access to information after initial leaks of Mr. Trump’s calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia. But the conversation with Mr. Lavrov and Sergey I. Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States, prompted tighter restrictions.
From The Guardian this morning: Trump’s Ukraine call sparks new questions over intelligence chief’s firing.
Three days after his now infamous phone conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Donald Trump abruptly fired his director of national intelligence in favour of an inexperienced political loyalist.
According to a New York Times report, the White House learned within days that the unorthodox call on 25 July with Zelenskiy had raised red flags among intelligence professionals and was likely to trigger an official complaint.
That timeline has raised new questions over the timing of the Trump’s dismissal by tweet of the director of national intelligence (DNI), Dan Coats, on 28 July and his insistence that the deputy DNI, Sue Gordon, a career intelligence professional, did not step into the role, even in an acting capacity.
Instead, Trump tried to install a Republican congressman, John Ratcliffe, who had minimal national security credentials but had been a fierce defender of the president in Congress. Trump had to drop the nomination after it emerged that Ratcliffe had exaggerated his national security credentials in his biography, wrongly claiming he had conducted prosecutions in terrorist financing cases.
Despite the collapse of the Ratcliffe nomination, Gordon was forced out. She was reported to have been holding a meeting on election security on 8 August when Coats interrupted to convinceher that she would have to resign.
According to The New York Times, Trump knew about the whistleblower complaint “Soon After Trump’s Call” with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, so it appears that Trump fired Coats and Gordon to keep them from getting involved in the situation.
The Washington Post reports that Trump may have been trying to get China to investigate Hunter Biden’s activities there: Trump says he raised Hunter Biden allegations with his China go-between.
President Trump, who has alleged that Hunter Biden got the Chinese to put $1.5 billion into an investment fund, said during private remarks this week that he raised the matter with a U.S. executive who has served as his intermediary on trade talks with Beijing….
In remarks to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations on Thursday morning, Trump said he discussed Biden’s China work with Stephen Schwarzman, the chief executive of the investment company Blackstone.
“I was with the head of Blackstone . . . Steve Schwarzman,” Trump said, according to a video of the remarks obtained by The Washington Post. After alleging that Hunter Biden got $1.5 billion from the Chinese, Trump said he asked Schwarzman, “Steve, is that possible?” Trump said Schwarzman asked, “Who got that?” and Trump responded, “Biden’s son.”
Trump said he asked Schwarzman how that could happen, and the executive responded: “Maybe I shouldn’t get involved, you know it’s very political.”
I wonder how many other countries Trump has tried to solicit for help with the 2020 election?
More stories to check out, links only:
Gary Kasparov at The New York Daily News: The dam is breaking: Trump’s true character is revealed, more fully than ever.
Michael Cohen at The Boston Globe: Forget impeachment. Donald Trump needs to resign.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: The Ukraine Scandal Is a Fitting Symbol of Trump’s Presidency. It May Finally Be His Downfall.
Anne Applebaum at The Washington Post: Americans spent decades discussing rule of law. Why would anyone believe us now?
The Washington Post: Deep Throat’s identity was a mystery for decades because no one believed this woman.
The Daily Beast: Pompeo Grapples for Ways to Outlast Hurricane Rudy.
Have a great Caturday, Sky Dancers!!
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I do not know about you but I’m seeing and feeling a shift in the Force. This is the first time–in what has been the wave of Trumpist corruption and chaos–that I’ve sensed brakes. I know this is not likely to be the end of this at all but it most certainly feels like a beginning. The media narrative has changed, The momentum for reaching towards Articles of Impeachment in the House has surpassed the magic number. The less crazy Republicans look noticeably shaken. The picture of the US from this weekend to last has been tilt-shifted. The focus has changed. A different lens has been applied.
If you are new to these photo manipulations, “tilt-shift” is an effect that gives a real-world scene an illusion of being a miniature model. It can be achieved in two ways: optically (with a special lens) or simulated in Photoshop, by adjusting a photograph’s contrast, color saturation, and depth of focus.
“It works quite well with regular photographs, so we decided to try it using classical paintings by famous artists to see what would happen…” Serena Malyon, a 3rd-year student at art school, took some of Van Gogh’s most beautiful paintings and turned them into photoshopped images to achieve this amazing tilt-shift effect.
You can find an interview with Serena at My Modern Met.
You may learn more about Tilt Shift Photography here.
And Tilt Shifting as it applies to Paintings here.
The first difference I sense is that Republicans are meekly showing concern. This is still feckless and gutless but it’s more than we’ve seen in nearly three years.
The public release of the whistle-blower complaint also revealed cracks in the edifice of loyalty Trump has attempted to construct around himself, both in the West Wing and on Capitol Hill.
In addition to Collins’s criticism, Representative Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, said in a public hearing on the complaint Thursday that Trump’s call was “not okay.”
While some of the president’s closest allies on Capitol Hill rushed to his defense, the vast majority of Senate Republicans were silent on the complaint. Many claimed they hadn’t had a chance to read it. Senator Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, said that because he might be a juror in Trump’s impeachment trial, he shouldn’t comment.
Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, said some Republicans privately told him they’re concerned about the latest development. But he said he doesn’t expect them to break with Trump “yet.”
White House officials have expressed concern that the impeachment investigation — focused on the president’s foreign policy — comes at a time of vulnerability for Trump. Several high-profile national security officials who could have direct knowledge of his actions toward Ukraine have recently departed.
They include the former director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who announced his resignation three days after Trump’s call with Zelenskiy, and his deputy, Sue Gordon, who was forced out of her position in August. Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton left earlier this month after a dramatic split between the two men.
These are the most obvious officials to call to the committee investigations which are now going to be ongoing in the House and in the Senate under the auspices of the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.
Today, Politico shows a vote with a handful of Republican defections on rerouting pentagon funding to the Border Wall in this story: “Congress forces a Trump veto with rebuke on border wall funding.” How will military families and the usual assortment of Defense-oriented Republicans respond to this?
The House on Friday voted to once again overturn President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a border wall, sending the legislation to Trump who is sure to veto it.
Eleven Republicans and one Republican-turned-independent sided with every Democrat to block Trump’s maneuver to circumvent Congress and divert billions in Pentagon funding to his wall.
The GOP defections were one less than the 13 Republicans who voted with Democrats on the same measure in February, when Congress first attempted to block Trump’s largely unprecedented use of emergency powers.
Since that vote, the White House has disclosed precisely which lawmakers’ districts would lose military construction funding, including in seats held by more than a dozen Republicans.
“The president’s decision to cancel $3.6 billion for military construction to pay for his wasteful wall makes America less safe,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a rare floor speech Friday, adding that the Trump administration is “stooping so low as to steal from a middle school in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.”
The Senate approved the measure earlier this week after 11 Republicans joined Democrats, underscoring the somewhat bipartisan nature of the rebuke.
Congress voted to terminate Trump’s national emergency earlier this spring but failed to win enough support to override the president’s veto. When Trump vetoes the measure again, it will mark the sixth veto of his presidency.
Under the law governing national emergencies, Congress can bring up a vote on Trump’s declaration every six months — and Democrats intend to do it in a bid to squeeze Republicans.
Even better, I’ve noticed a new tendency for the media to begin to speak of the Orange Snot Blob in past tense and plans for the post Trumpist Crime Family syndicate regime.
Most of his here know and have discussed that Speaker Pelosi knows strategy, the house, and how to count. Discover more about Pelosi at The New Yorker. This lede is by David Remenick: “Nancy Pelosi: An Extremely Stable Genius. When asked if it was possible that impeachment might backfire, the Speaker of the House insisted that politics has nothing to do with it. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “He has given us no choice.”
From the start, Pelosi has confronted Trump with a wry fearlessness. When, in a moment of rare self-aggrandizement, Trump referred to himself as an “extremely stable genius,” she replied, “When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more Presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade, and other issues.” In an Oval Office confrontation last year, she brooked no disrespect from Trump and asked that he please not underestimate “the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats.” When, on another occasion, Trump referred to Pelosi as a “mess,” the Speaker thoughtfully suggested that the President might benefit from an “intervention for the good of the country.”
For months, however, Pelosi avoided the ultimate intervention. She frustrated many members of the Democratic caucus who believed—for myriad reasons, some contained in the Mueller report, some not—that they should pursue an impeachment inquiry against the President. Pelosi was reluctant, worried that there was not enough evidence to prevent a backfire scenario, in which Trump would emerge from impeachment still safely in office, emboldened, unchallenged by his own party, a martyr with an enhanced prospect at reëlection.
“Remember this,” Pelosi told me, in an interview on Thursday afternoon, as she recalled the Watergate era. “I saw, as a young person, that the Republicans didn’t come around until the tapes. It wasn’t like they were saying, ‘This behavior is not acceptable to us.’ The tapes were dispositive of the issue. There was no vote to impeach, because it was so clear that he had to go. But even Nixon knew of his responsibility to the country. I’m not sure this person does.”
HuffPo’s Matt Fuller says that while Democrats are unifying, Republicans are fracturing. Is this progress? Is this the best we can hope for now? What about the near future; say around Thanksgiving?
It’s been one week since most of Capitol Hill heard the first reports of a whistleblower, and with new developments almost every day since, Republicans and Democrats are still wrapping their heads around how much the impeachment dynamics have flipped.
In a week, House Democrats have moved from a drawn-out investigative approach to near-unanimity on impeachment proceedings. For them, it’s no longer a matter of whether they’ll impeach President Donald Trump; it’s when and by what charges.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, members are all over the place.
Some say they haven’t read the whistleblower complaint released Thursday (or, worse, still haven’t read the summary of the call between Trump and the Ukrainian president that was released Wednesday). Some Republicans said there is absolutely nothing wrong with anything the president did, that Democrats owe Trump an apology or even ought to be thanking the president. Other Republicans step on that narrative by admitting that, no, actually, maybe there is something to these charges ― splitting the difference by expressing some unease with the situation but arguing it doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment.
Still, the loudest voices are from the Republicans who insist Trump has done nothing wrong.
Republicans are seizing on one line in the complaint to undermine the whistleblower’s credibility: “I was not a direct witness to most of the events described.”
The whistleblower said he had more than a half dozen White House sources whose accounts matched each other, plus publicly available information. But Republicans have already left the room.
According to a Politico/Morning Consult poll that was conducted between September 24 and 26, support for impeachment across party lines now stands at 43 percent, an uptick from 36 percent just last week. Similarly, a HuffPost/YouGov poll, also fielded between September 24 and 26, found that the margin between those backing impeachment and those who oppose it was expanding. In this week’s survey, 47 percent supported impeachment, while 39 percent opposed it, compared to 43 percent and 41 percent that felt the same way in a previous September poll. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll that was held on September 25 also found that 49 percent of voters favor impeachment proceedings.
These polls, while broadly conducted before the release of the whistleblower complaint on Thursday, show a shift in public sentiment since Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry announcement earlier this week. While it’s still very early to know whether such shifts in the public mood will stick, the polls do suggest that House Democrats’ decision to move forward with the inquiry along with the new information that’s come out about the Trump-Zelensky phone call on July 25 could be altering how voters view impeachment.
In both the Politico/Morning Consult and HuffPost/YouGov polls, the increases in support for impeachment were largely fueled by Democratic voters. The Morning Consult poll saw an increase from 66 percent to 79 percent among Democratic voters, 33 percent to 39 percent among Independent voters, and 5 percent to 10 percent among Republican voters. The HuffPost/YouGov poll, too, saw an uptick of 74 percent to 81 percent among Democratic voters, 35 percent to 37 percent among Independents and a dip among Republicans from 16 percent to 11 percent.
This is not a huge leap either but it’s a signal of a shift. And we almost have a weird confirmation from the Russians that The Hair Furor makes some weird, unAmerican phone calls in this headline from NBC News: “Kremlin says it hopes U.S. would not release Trump-Putin calls, like it did with Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “we would like to hope that it wouldn’t come to that.”
Asked Friday if Moscow is worried that the White House could similarly publish transcripts of Trump’s calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “we would like to hope that it wouldn’t come to that in our relations, which are already troubled by a lot of problems.”
None of this can come soon enough for most of us.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is testifying before the House Intelligence Committee this morning. Maguire has given his opening statement and the questioning has begun. At about 8:30, the whistleblower complaint was released to the public. You can read it here.
So far Maguire is working pretty hard to obfuscate Adam Schiff’s questions, but he has admitted that he first took the complaint to the White House counsel’s office for advice. He keeps claiming that he can’t violate executive privilege but he also admits that the “president” has not asserted executive privilege. Next he went to the DOJ even though Bill Barr is specifically mentioned in the whistleblower complaint as likely being involved in Trump’s wrongdoing!
Anyway, if you’re watching, please post your thoughts in the comments to this post.
Here’s the latest:
The whistleblower complaint at the heart of the burgeoning controversy over President Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president claims not only that the president misused his office for personal gain and endangered national security but that unidentified White House officials tried to hide that conduct.
“In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election,” the whistleblower wrote in the complaint dated Aug. 12. The House Intelligence Committee released the document Thursday morning.
“This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals. The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph W. Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General (William P.) Barr appears to be involved as well,” the complaint states.
In that phone call, Trump pressed President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, one of his chief political rivals, and Biden’s son Hunter — offering to enlist Barr’s help in that effort while dangling a possible visit to the White House, according to a rough transcript of the call released by the White House on Wednesday.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
President Trump used the power of his office to try to get Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election to investigate a political rival “for personal gain,” according to an explosive whistle-blower complaint released on Thursday after days of damning revelations about Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Attorney General William P. Barr and the president’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani were central to the effort, the complaint said.
In addition, the complaint says that whistle-blower, an unidentified intelligence officer, learned from multiple American officials that “senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced as is customary by the White House Situation Room.”
“This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call,” the complaint said.
The whistle-blower’s complaint was based on accounts from multiple White House officials who were “deeply disturbed” by what they heard on the call, the complaint said.
Read more at the link above.
The New York Times last night: Phone Call Showed Only a Slice of Trump’s Obsession With Ukraine.
Long before the July 25 call with the new Ukrainian president that helped spur the formal start of impeachment proceedings against him in the House, Mr. Trump fretted and fulminated about the former Soviet state, angry over what he sees as Ukraine’s role in the origins of the investigations into Russian influence on his 2016 campaign.
His fixation was only intensified by his hope that he could employ the Ukrainian government to undermine his most prominent potential Democratic rival in 2020, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
And Mr. Trump has put the powers of his office behind his agenda: He has dispatched Vice President Mike Pence and top administration officials with thinly veiled messages about heeding his demands about confronting corruption, which Ukrainian and former American officials say is understood as code for the Bidens and Ukrainians who released damaging information about the Trump campaign in 2016. This summer he froze a package of military assistance to Ukraine even as the country, eager to build closer relations with Washington, continued to be menaced by its aggressive neighbor Russia.
…there’s another whistleblower ― one with possible evidence that Trump tried to corrupt an Internal Revenue Service audit of his personal tax returns ― who has received relatively little attention.
The tax whistleblower…went straight to Congress ― specifically to the House Ways and Means Committee, which had sued the Trump administration for refusing to provide copies of the president’s tax returns in response to a formal request. Democrats say they need Trump’s returns to make sure the IRS properly enforces tax laws against the president.
But Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) is far less outspoken than Schiff, and his approach to the tax case has been cautious. He decided to stay focused on the lawsuit, using the whistleblower’s material to bolster that case.
In a brief last month, the committee told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that a “federal employee” had approached them with “evidence of possible misconduct” and “inappropriate efforts” to influence an IRS audit of the president. The document provided no further detail about the whistleblower, but in a footnote, Democrats offered to tell U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden all about it in private.
A spokesman for the committee said this week that McFadden, a Trump nominee who donated to the Trump 2016 campaign and volunteered for the Trump presidential transition, has so far not asked to hear more about the whistleblower. He denied a Democratic motion to speed up the case.
This one is really interesting. I hope you’ll read the whole thing by Murray Waas at the New York Review of Books: Trump, Giuliani, and Manafort: The Ukraine Scheme.
The effort by President Trump to pressure the government of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son had its origins in an earlier endeavor to obtain information that might provide a pretext and political cover for the president to pardon his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, according to previously undisclosed records.
These records indicate that attorneys representing Trump and Manafort respectively had at least nine conversations relating to this effort, beginning in the early days of the Trump administration, and lasting until as recently as May of this year. Through these deliberations carried on by his attorneys, Manafort exhorted the White House to press Ukrainian officials to investigate and discredit individuals, both in the US and in Ukraine, who he believed had published damning information about his political consulting work in the Ukraine. A person who participated in the joint defense agreement between President Trump and others under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, including Manafort, allowed me to review extensive handwritten notes that memorialized conversations relating to Manafort and Ukraine between Manafort’s and Trump’s legal teams, including Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
These new disclosures emerge as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday that the House would open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s conduct. What prompted her actions were the new allegations that surfaced last week that Trump had pressured Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Trump’s potential 2020 campaign rival, Biden, and his son Hunter, placing a freeze on a quarter of a billion dollars in military assistance to Ukraine as leverage. The impeachment inquiry will also examine whether President Trump obstructed justice by attempting to curtail investigations by the FBI and the special counsel into Russia’s covert interference in the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.
New information in this story suggests that these two, seemingly unrelated scandals, in which the House will judge whether the president’s conduct in each case constituted extra-legal and extra-constitutional abuses of presidential power, are in fact inextricably linked: the Ukrainian initiative appears to have begun in service of formulating a rationale by which the president could pardon Manafort, as part of an effort to undermine the special counsel’s investigation.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: The Ukraine Scandal Is Not One Phone Call. It’s a Massive Plot.
On July 25, President Trump held a phone call in which he repeatedly leaned on Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and Paul Manafort’s prosecutors. The episode is so blatantly inappropriate even Trump’s most fervent apologists are, with a few exceptions, having trouble defending it. What they are trying to do, instead, is define this phone call as the entire scandal. Trump emphasizes that he “didn’t specifically mention the explicit quid pro quo” of military aid in return for the investigation.
That is true, as far as it goes. The quid pro quo in the call, though perfectly apparent, is mostly implicit. But the real trick in Trump’s defense is framing the call as the entire scandal. The scandal is much more than that. The call is a snapshot, a moment in time in a months-long campaign that put American policy toward Ukraine at the disposal of Trump’s personal interests and reelection campaign.
Last spring, Rudy Giuliani was openly pressuring Kiev to investigate Joe Biden. Giuliani told the New York Times, “We’re meddling in an investigation … because that information will be very, very helpful to my client.” The key word there was “we’re.” The first-person plural indicated Giuliani was not carrying out this mission alone. A series of reports have revealed how many other government officials were involved in the scheme.
Read more at the link.
A few more:
Susan Glasser at The New Yorker: “Do Us a Favor”: The Forty-eight Hours That Sealed Trump’s Impeachment.
Lawrence Tribe at USA Today: Donald Trump’s call with Ukrainian president drips with impeachable crimes.
Neal Kaytal at The New York Times: Trump Doesn’t Need to Commit a Crime to Be Kicked Out of Office.
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